In college, one of our assistant coaches used to yell out, "The work ain't hard!" all the time during practice and drills. We used to get so tired of hearing it but looking back, he was right. He would often say, "The work ain't hard if you love the game. If you love the game then it's not work, it's fun." That mantra has stuck with me ever since.
I received my first basketball somewhere around the age of 4 or 5 I think. I honestly can't remember how old I was. I just remember being captivated by opening the wrapping paper and seeing the ball. It was the greatest gift I could have ever received. From that point on, I was hooked.
Basketball didn't come as easy to me as football did. Football was my best sport as a kid. I was from a football family. All my cousins played and were extremely talented. I became the black sheep because I gave up football for basketball.
I didn't have a basketball hoop in my driveway. If I wanted to play basketball, I had to have my mom or dad drive me into town to play at the park. They usually got tired of waiting for me to finish playing so they often ran errands or did other things while I was at the park. I bounced that ball until the lights came on and then I kept bouncing it and shooting it until the lights went out, usually around 10 or 10:30pm.
I had to work at basketball and I loved every bit of it. Soon, it consumed me. It began to define me. I still remember being left off a team in the 6th grade. My PE teacher put kids on that team that I knew I was better than but he didn't pick me. What did I do? When that team was away playing, I was outside at the courts at my elementary school shooting and working on my game. I was determined to never be left off a team again. It put a massive chip on my shoulder.
I remember being moved up to the JV team in the 8th grade and then remaining on the team even as a 9th grader. I was moved up to the varsity near the end of the season in the 9th grade. I also remember sitting on the varsity bench watching my team getting lit up by a kid that I knew I could stop and my high school coach putting in a kid younger than me to guard the kid in a crucial tournament game. I sat there on the bench knowing that the kid was going to get worked and we were going to lose. He did work the kid over and we did lose. The next Monday at school my coach said, "I should have put you on him." And I looked him in his eye and said, "Yep, you should have. We would have won."
I spent all my summers at basketball camps improving my game. I worked just so I could get money to buy Jordans for camp. I came back from camp vowing to improve my game and dominate anyone that dared to face me. I took every slight from other players, coaches and other personally. I was determined to show them that they made a mistake. They had the wrong guy. I would not be taken lightly.
A couple of things stand out to me during this critical juncture in my basketball career. I think these things apply to players today. They are as follows:
1. Failure is good - I was never afraid to fail. In fact, early failures created that drive in me. From being left off a team, to being benched for a kid that I was clearly better than, to losing games we should have won...all of those failures led me to work even harder on my game. I wanted to show people that I was better than they thought. I didn't want to lose and I didn't want to sit on the bench. I didn't pout or cry about these things. I got angry and was determined to use it all as ammo to get better.
2. You must sacrifice in order to reach your goals - You must be willing to sacrifice if you want to chase greatness. I didn't go to either of my junior or senior proms. I gave up my summers of fun to spend weeks away from home at basketball camps getting better. I spent hours in the gym working out while my friends were chilling and having fun. If you aren't willing to sacrifice some things to improve then you won't get very far. Goals and dreams require sacrifice. Achieving those goals and dreams aren't for the meek. You must chase them wholeheartedly.
3. Examine your weaknesses and make them strengths - Do not be afraid to admit that you struggle with certain parts of your game. No one is perfect. You have to look at your game with an unbiased view. You have to be able to take constructive criticism from your coaches that may see holes in your game. As a young player, I read that Michael Jordan spent every summer adding different aspects to his game. I wanted to do the same. If Mike added a fadeaway jumper from the post to his game then I was going to add it too. I was going to improve one aspect of my game each summer until my weakness became a strength. The great ones work to remove the holes from their games. You must do the same.
4. Work out with a purpose and direction - Too often, players work out aimlessly. They are in the gym but there is no direction to their workout. They just keep doing the same things over and over again until boredom sets in. This is not efficient or effective. There must be a clear plan. Weight lifters keep workout journals with the number of sets and reps they do in each workout. Basketball players should be the same. There needs to be a clear goal for each workout as well. You can't work every aspect of the game in a 2 hour time frame. If you want to work on your handle then work on your handle. If you want to work on your mid-range game then work on that. Many times, the skills overlap but if you have a clear focus on what you're trying to improve then it's easier to keep track of progress.
5. The work ain't hard - It's true...if you love the game then the work isn't hard, mentally. It will most definitely be hard physically and it will challenge you mentally but it will be worth it. The work ain't hard if you love the game. If you love the game then you'll push through and you want worry about how much time you invested in the gym. You won't worry about taking pictures of the gym and posting it on social media. You won't have time for all of that if you're truly working to improve your game.
Many people say they want to be good but they aren't willing to invest the time needed to be good. If you are one of those people then we may be able to help you. If you need help with the direction and purpose of your workouts or just want someone to push you through, hit us up. We would be glad to help! And remember..."The work ain't hard!"